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Berenice G. Rodríguez Quintana 129940 From the beginning of this century, psychology has been concerned with the meddling of mood and emotions in the overall social interaction. Due to the rising of capitalism, the need to improve productivity has resulted in an increasing interest for the study of leadership and its relationship with the personal state of being. In this fashion, emotional intelligence has become the main worry in leadership enhancement. Nowadays, the big answer seems to be found in neuroscience: it s all about brain chemistry. Psychology can again rely on medical technology to prove what, in other times, were just hypotheses: leadership is not just an attitude or ability but a kind of intelligence so it depends completely on neural mechanisms. Emotional intelligence, the one intelligence that is in charge of leadership, varies from person to person. But the good news is that because our behavior creates and develops neural networks [as well], we are not necessarily prisoners of our genes and our early childhood experiences 1. According to the idea that our attitudes shape the way our brain works chemically speaking conditioning can be dismissed and reformulated in order to modify what we are. At first sight, these self-help theories seem nothing more than superstitions, but neuroscience has demonstrated the existence of some brain cells which maintain these body-social functions. The importance of this article is the application of psychology and neuroscience to the management of leadership. Researchers have discovered that people s behaviors do affect not only their own brain chemistry, but that of their fellows. At the end, interpersonal relationships are not a matter of individual-to-individual interaction, but a complex dynamic in which brains react consciously or unconsciously to each other creating a huge single system. Brains fuse to coordinate behavior. That is why employers with high social intelligence can powerfully perk up the general performance of the enterprise by affecting the system of brain interconnectedness. Social intelligence as a set of interpersonal
GOLEMAN, Daniel and Richard Boyatzis. Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership.
competencies built on specific neural circuits that inspire others to be effective is a vital requirement for any kind of leader. It is important to emphasize the fact that these interpersonal competencies are more of an innate gift than a learned practice. However, by learning how brain works, we can doubtlessly catch some tips. There are three main kinds of brain cells that control social interaction. The first ones are called mirror neurons. They were discovered accidentally when working with a monkey: one of the researchers raised a hand to eat an ice cream and for no apparent reason the animal did the same gesture. In this way, the cells that reproduce gestures, attitudes or behavior as if standing before a mirror operate as a neural Wi-Fi . Metalanguage
communication helps us to obtain extra information about our environment in order to facilitate the navigation in our social world. We can consciously or unconsciously detect someone else s emotions through nonverbal communication, that is, moods can be depicted or decode through actions thanks to our mirror neurons. Mirror neurons create an instant sense of shared experience that is commonly known as the sixth sense. It is said that the sixth sense is a talent, but neuroscience describes it as an effective ability to recognize patterns. The recognition of patterns is nothing else than the gathering of big amounts of input to facilitate the decision making process. In that way, a good observer is also a sighted person . Having good instincts is widely recognized as an advantage for a leader in any context because it is expected for a guide to others to take fast, accurate decisions. Intuition is generated in the brain also by the action of some neurons called spindle cells. These are special brain cells because they are about four times the size of other neurons; they have an extra-long branch to facilitate connection to other cells. With a better connection between neurons, information of perception, thoughts and feelings are quickly transmitted. To our social guidance system quick information means better communication skills because it helps to prioritize and gauge whether someone is trustworthy or not. Never again thin-slice judgments should be ignored, on the contrary we should remember they are quite precise. When talking about the brain, the question about gender differences always arises. It is true that there are some significant inequalities in the way men s and women s brain work. Nevertheless, in leadership skills there are not clear gender distinctions. Even though women tend to detect people s emotions easier than men, the disparities in social
intelligence at high-level leaders in working situations are not that striking. Perhaps the fact that men tend to be more confident in social settings functions as the counterpart of women s ability to detect feelings. The name of the third kind of neurons is oscillators. Oscillators coordinate people physically by regulating how and when their bodies move to produce simultaneous and/or synchronized motions. When oscillators and mirror neurons work together in a complete circuitry, thoughts and movements of different organisms are combined to create similar behaviors and attitudes. Consequently, leader s emotions and actions prompt followers to do the same. A recipe that lists the steps to become a better leader does not exist. Great leadership is in part an innate capacity and in part the accumulation of experience. The authors of this article suggest that a potent way of becoming a better leader is to find authentic contexts in which to learn the kinds of social behavior that reinforce the brain s social circuitry, in other words, a leader should develop a genuine interest for people s welfare by eliciting positive feelings that derive from his or her own positive attitude. Leadership is never again just a matter of mastering situations or acquiring knowledge, social intelligence has been found to be an important tool to handle crisis situations. The main characteristic of crisis situations is stress. Stress is a feeling produced by adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals in small quantities are necessary to protect the body from any harm because they sharpen the response to stimuli. However, constant stress strongly affects reasoning and cognition. A good leader should be aware of the stress levels in his/her working setting. Whenever delivering feedback, leaders should be careful with criticism and displays of anger as to avoid hormonal surges of adrenaline and cortisol in the employees. This last advice is especially important because the interaction of mirror neurons, oscillators and spindle cells can promote the spreading of tension among all the people in the company. In the same way positive feelings are imitated, destructive emotions spread to an entire group and inhibit its performance. By concentrating more on the way feedback is given than the message itself, leaders can continue to be demanding but in ways that foster a positive mood and a true desire to change. Researchers are sure that the secret of top-performing groups is laughter; being in good mood helps people take in information effectively and respond nimbly and creatively.
When talking about leadership, psychology and neuroscience prove that academic preparation is not enough. Besides having a prominent IQ, leaders should be the guides that bring compassion, empathy and wisdom to the organizations in order to increase effectiveness in business, improve education, and above all, transform personal life. It is true that when a person is more self-aware, he or she makes better decisions because he/she is more in touch with others emotional needs. The ability to bring out the best in people translates to top performance but there are not methods to strengthen social intelligence circuitry. Beware! Self-conscious attempts to display leadership are just too forced and can backfire. The only way to develop this circuitry is to change our behavior, and as others respond, the brains connect profoundly, thereby reinforcing circuits.
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